As the summer doldrums linger on, those hardy souls who remain here in SaddleBrooke make the necessary adjustments to survive the high heat of the Sonoran desert. We are driven to seek shelter in our homes, the movie theaters, restaurants and shopping malls; compete for early tee times and conclude our morning walks by 7 a.m.
As we make modifications to our daily routine, our selection of wines should change as well. When the temperature climbs into the triple digits and the monsoon season drives up the humidity, I find myself reaching into the wine cooler to find something refreshing. And while my choice may be a white or a red, all of my summer selections have one thing in common: high acidity.
Acidity is one of the key components in dry wine. Along with tannins it is responsible for structure in wine. Acidity plays a role in keeping the wine fresh as well has helping it to age well. Wines which are high in acid may taste tart or sharp, maybe even sour; they make your mouth water after you swallow a sip. Both red and white wines that are high in acid are rarely heavy or full bodied. They also tend to be a little lower in alcohol, which makes these wines more refreshing. Wines high in acid also tend to pair well with food, especially the lighter fare that we enjoy in the summer.
When selecting high acid wines consumers should look to regions with cooler climates, as well as grape varieties known to have naturally high acidity such as Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. Certain Chardonnays can fit the bill as well, but you do have to be more careful in your selection, as heavy oak treatment and other winemaking manipulations can soften the wine. The back label on the bottle can often provide clues to assist in your choice. Look for code words like ‘crisp’, ‘bright’, ‘racy’ or ‘fresh’.
When pairing with food, high acid wines compliment meals that have the same level or lower acidity. Salt is one seasoning that can balance out a particularly tart wine. Two fundamentals to note: Serving temperature is important when it comes to high acid wines – shoot for about 60˚ F. Also, the first taste of a high acid wine, especially without food, can seem mouth puckering, but with subsequent sips and with a meal this harsh sensation will quickly abate. Understand though that a wine that is high in acid needs to have the right balance, including other major elements such as alcohol, tannins and rich flavors to prevent it from being one dimensional: no one likes to drink vinegar!
A positive note is that a majority of wines which are high in acid are quite affordable as well. This can be especially important during the summer when our monthly electric bills tend to climb and consume a greater percentage of our retirement savings.
Tom Oetinger holds an advanced certification in wine & spirits from the WSET in London, England and is available to answer your wine questions at firstname.lastname@example.org